Brennan Center Joins Coalition Letter to New York City’s Automated Decision Systems Task Force

On August 17, the Brennan Center joined a coalition letter to New York City’s Automated Decision Systems Task Force, recommending policies and procedures to govern the use of algorithmic systems in city government.

August 20, 2018

The #NYCAlgorithms Coalition -- a coalition of individuals and organizations including the AI Now Institute, the Brennan Center, Bronx Defenders, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Data for Black Lives, the Legal Aid Society, Media Mobilizing Project, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, New York Civil Liberties Union, and many others -- sent a joint letter on Friday to New York City’s Automated Decision Systems Task Force.

This letter contains recommendations for identifying automated decision systems in New York City’s government, developing procedures for identifying and remedying harms, developing a process for public review, and assessing the feasibility of archiving automated decision systems and relevant data.

Recommendations include: 

  1. Consulting specified subject matter experts on recommendations in areas including child welfare, education, policing, immigration, housing, and public benefits;
  2. Requiring NYC agencies to publicly disclose their use of algorithms, explain how they work, and allow the public to challenge decisions made by them, while ensuring that explanations account for New York’s linguistic, socioeconomic, and cultural diversity;
  3. Ensuring that city procurement contracts with vendors contain provisions requiring transparency in the data sets they employ, including any documentation of bias testing;
  4. Establishing a standard to measure disproportionate impact on minorities, along with a legal process for individuals to bring a lawsuit.
  5. Ensuring that all uses of algorithms are subjected to an Algorithmic Impact Assessment, preferably before acquiring or building new algorithms.

The coalition contends that the adoption of automated decision systems by public agencies has the potential to increase inequality and government surveillance of poor and working class families. Earlier this year, the coalition sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio offering recommendations for appointments to the Automated Decision Systems Task Force.

Read the letter here.